Wednesday, June 25, 2008


I guess this current game of tag started with Good Dog, who tagged Beavis, who tagged Ken, who tagged me.

At the same time they all tagged other folks so that lately I'm seeing the lists of "The Seven Songs I'm Really into and Enjoying Right Now" on virtually every blog I read.

And knowing I'd have to respond or be a party poop, I watched/listened to all the amazingly eclectic, cutting edge and innovative play lists offered. In the process, I realized that either us TV people are the hippest, coolest music aficionados around -- or -- we really do have a gift for fiction.

Then I took a step back and looked at this entertaining smörgåsbord offered in such a creative way and wondered -- "How much longer is it going to be legal to do this?"

For virtually all of these intelligent and creative people, most of whom are Canadian and depend on copyright law to earn their living, are linking and sharing music and videos that even if they own, the Canadian government is soon going to fine them for linking and sharing.

And I started wondering -- How retroactive is Bill C-61 going to be? Will all of us be getting letters from Sony and Warner Music one day demanding that we remove the clips embedded in our archived pages and reminding us that there's a $20,000 fine for each infraction if we don't?

$20,000 times 7 songs that's (carry the 2)-- Wow! $140,000 per blogger -- for one set of posts in a one week period! That'll make up for a shitload of new Madonna albums that are tanking worldwide, won't it?

Then I started thinking that it's real interesting that when a record company puts up a video on Youtube that's -- "Promotion". But when you do the same thing by linking their promotion to your own circle of friends, you're -- a Pirate!

And that got me thinking about what I'm listening to and enjoying right now. Let me amend that -- listening to -- but NOT enjoying...

At the moment, I'm far away from both my CD collection and my satellite radio. Forgot to pack 'em in the rush to the airport. Nor did I remember to grab my MP3 player with all the cool songs I will eventually be a criminal for ripping from my own CDs.

So, if I want to hear any music, I have to do it the old fashioned way, by turning on the car radio. Unfortunately, I'm so fricken deep in the boonies, I can only get two stations driving in of a morning. One's the CBC, so I'm well up on my Aboriginal chants and budding Jazz stylists from the lower mainland.

My only alternative is a Canadian version of one of those Clear Channel style "Flow" stations where they segue from 60's oldies to 80's oldies to Rod Stewart singing torch songs and Celine Dion taking a shot at Heavy Metal.

The Seven Songs I heard this morning were:

1. To Love Somebody - The BeeGees
2. Daydream Believer - The Monkees
3. I Honestly Love You - Olivia Newton John
4. Tennesee Waltz - Anne Murray
5. The Last Time - Glenn Campbell
7. Quando, Quando, Quando - Englebert Humperdink
8. I Couldn't Live Without Your Love - Petula Clark

Anybody want me posting those videos?

Oh -- and Canadians -- note the cool little "work-around" on the content rules at items 4 & 5. No full out Canadian content anywhere, but an American standard sung by a Canadian and then a Canadian penned song sung by an American standard -- so the radio guys still keep their license.

A culture is diluted so easily isn't it? Pity that a government so concerned with the plight of "copyright holders" didn't feel the need to address any current loopholes.

Anyway, I'm old enough to remember every single one of those songs from when they were hits. And I hated them then too. But they won't go away -- mostly because they all belong to libraries owned or controlled by the same big media conglomerates who own the radio station that endlessly plays them.

But in hearing them again, I suddenly had a blindingly clear insight into the idiotic Copyright bill Industry Minister Jim Prentice is forcing upon us -- where it's come from and what it's really designed to do...

This is a bill intended not to protect artists but to stifle creativity and keep the music market in the hands of a powerful few, a concept that has driven the music business for generations and was on the verge of being erased by new technologies. But unless they regain control it will mean the end of the Media conglomerates who have destroyed countless lives and careers to feed their own rapacious greed.

A few weeks ago, I posted a reminiscence of Buddy Knox, the first rock star I ever saw live, which received an amazing comment.

The writer met Buddy years later and the aging Rocker told him how he and fellow artist Frankie Lymon were threatened with death if they ever tried to claim any of their royalties. I'd heard the same Frankie Lymon story from a NY Cop who'd arrested the teen idol after he'd become a destitute and broken heroin addict.

Back in those days, I was just a high school kid on the Prairies, hanging my Japanese transistor radio out the school bus window so I could get better reception through its single earplug. I didn't know that Buddha Records was run by the mob or that half the songs I was listening to were only being played because somebody had slipped the disk jockey or his station owner a few bucks in Payola.

I just knew that a "Top 50" rotation was making me listen to crap like "Norman", "Tighten Up" and "The Name Game" way too often. And it got worse when the formats became "Top 40". I'd moved on before the shelf space squeezing out any new or independent sounds had dropped to the current "Top 30" level.

That's because my life changed one afternoon while holding that transistor outside the bus in a thunderstorm, when the DJ either needed to take a leak or close a window and put on Bob Dylan's "Like a Rolling Stone" -- the long version. I suddenly knew there was magic being kept from me and I needed to find more of it.

I was far from alone in that quest and during the late 60's and early 70's, struggling FM stations suddenly found an audience by playing album rock. Music just as suddenly started speaking to its audience directly and that audience was quick to shake its society to the core in return.

But the record guys were smart. They still owned the means of distribution and were able to buy their way back into being in control again and keep doing what they did best -- screwing the artists and their audience.

You don't have to watch a lot of VH-1 "Behind the Music" episodes to realize that no matter how big and influential an artist or band became, right after the last commercial break they would be broke because the record company stole all their money.

And none of this is ancient history. Record companies are still being regularly sued by their artists for withholding funds and convicted of "Payola" style payoffs with estimates that as much as $3 Million a week is being spent to make sure only specific music gets played.

And yet these are the kind of people our government has chosen to align itself with in drafting copyright legislation, criminalizing their own population in the process as well as putting many of the youngest of them in the same direct line of fire as that 16 year old Frankie Lymon.

Some say this is an inevitable alliance between a Conservative government and media companies that are fundamentally conservative. Therefore you have the decidedly bizarre reality of a law and order Prime Minister championing a copyright law molded by repeat white collar criminals who are also peddling gangsta rap that glorifies drug dealing, pimping and violence.

Gee, Mr. Harper, is that the world you really want for your kids -- and this country?

Or maybe big media has learned that instead of paying some NY DJ's to play Celine Dion records, you can get more mileage by simply directing your Payola payments to politicians instead.

What PM Steve and our boneheaded Industry Minister don't seem to get is that by doing the bidding of American media conglomerates they're hastening the arrival of a system that will be closed to new artists or any music that isn't (like the list above) an inoffensive soundtrack controlled by the corporations marketing it.

Not only is such a course for a supposedly independent nation foolish, it's gutless. You won't find a better example of political cowardice than Industry Minister Prentice being interviewed on CBC's "Search Engine". The guy literally runs away. You can link to the podcast here.

Minister Prentice's testicles can apparently be found in a jar at the Recording Industry of America's world headquarters in Mordor.

So in conclusion, Alls I'm sayin' is -- we can either have a future where people can share the music they love and have the opportunity of being exposed to ideas and outlooks that might change the world (or just them) for the better. Or they can have a world owned by big media that'll tell us all what we can listen to.

Like Celine Dion doing heavy metal...

Oh God, I think I just made Bon Scott choke on his own vomit again!


Anonymous said...

Another great read, Jim. I think you've made up for making us watch all those "Adderly" episodes...:-)

I think the thing that is changing music will save music, i.e., technology. On-line "radio" stations, set up by the artists themselves, seem to be thriving. Here's a fave of mine:

(Press the radio button). And he bootlegs himself and puts most of his shows on the Web. And the more I hear for free, the more I buy. Funny how that works. The ironic thing is that I first heard this (mostly) organic and acoustic music on an on-line radio station. A few billion dollars of technology, and I'm listening to campfire songs.

Perhaps the best example is Fred Eaglesmith:

He actually brags about not being in the music business anymore. He just makes music his fans want to hear, plays it, and makes a living out of it. No million dollar videos full of bling, massive stages or 15 bus convoys.

And your Yank fans might want to check out Unfortunately, those nasty "licensing constraints" won't allow non-American users.

Good Dog said...


another genius post as usual. Afraid to say that, like everyone else, I was tagged and put Mr Dixon on my list.

The only game I've been playing on my blog is, pick an actor from a generation or two back and suggest a triple bill of their films.

All started when, over successive nights I watched The Dirty Dozen, The Poseidon Adventure and Ice Station Zebra rather than all the football and discovered it was a decent Ernest Borgnine triple.

Love Tennesee Waltz.

Brandon Laraby said...

Yeah, and it's not like we're suffering from a lack of creativity here at home, right?

Well, that is if you go to Indie shows.

Man, check out stuff like NXNE (North by North-East) and NXNW to see some great bands with real passion. Unfortunately, they, the people that really NEED to have the freedom to share their music freely and such, will end up suffering because a bunch of rich old white guys need even more money. (never enough...)

wcdixon said...

Uh oh....would he? Could he? Oh no....he's going does Ac/Dc...he went there!